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Japanese Encephalitis - sounding the alarm bell

Dr Scott Abbinga is a committed volunteer with Healthy Futures. He also is an infectious disease registrar currently working at Monash Health in Melbourne and has recently treated a patient with Japanese Encephalitis. This experience highlighted Scott's concerns with the rise of infectious diseases due to climate change. 

Scott Abbinga

Scott generously gives up his time to volunteer on something he is passionate about - the health impacts on climate change. He helps co-ordinate Healthy Futures' volunteer physicians group and when he's not working or volunteering with us, you'll find him hiking with friends and podcasting with MedConversations.

Scott recently cared for a patient with Japanese Encephalitis, a viral zoonotic disease that is spread by mosquitoes and has recently been detected in southern parts of Australia. Unfortunately, this patient did not survive the disease. 

This experience caused a lot of reflection for Scott on the role climate change will continue to play in the spread of infectious diseases.

"This new outbreak in Victoria of a tropical and lethal disease is a disturbing reminder that we cannot predict the new dangers that climate change will bring," said Scott.

"The effects of increased heat and humidity on mosquito vector populations is already driving a global explosion of Dengue fever incidence, which has increased 8 fold since the year 2000".

Rising temperatures, humidity and precipitation are predicted to increase the frequency and range of many mosquito-borne disease such as Japanese Encephalitis, Malaria and Dengue fever in addition to tick-borne disease such as Lyme disease. Massive population displacement and extreme weather events such as flooding and famine will also increase the risk of outbreaks of cholera, infectious diarrhoea, tuberculosis and HIV.

Scott is committed to confronting the major causes of climate change, including the burning of fossil fuels which is also causing a range of other health impacts in Australian communities. He believes true change rests on the shoulders of decision makers in government and business. 

"Major system change is the only way to protect ourselves and our community," he adds. For this reason, we've been fortunate to have Scott help strategise on Healthy Futures campaigns to try bring about such change.

In 2022 he is keenly looking forward to many more face to face Healthy Futures events and actions as the pandemic settles down.

Keen to volunteer with Healthy Futures, like Scott? We'd love to hear from you! Visit our volunteer page.

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